Bittersweet debut for GRT in the DTM. In Saturday’s race at the season opener on the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, Mirko Bortolotti claimed a podium for the Lamborghini team from Austria in a dramatic race. In the morning, the Italian had sensationally clinched his first pole position in the DTM, which was also the first for GRT and Lamborghini. In the race, the driver of the number 63 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO was on course for victory until a safety car phase. A temporary problem cost him the lead. In the final phase, the Lamborghini works driver made his way back onto the podium in a hard fought battle with Mercedes-driver Maro Engel. With third place, he ensured a conciliatory result.
Mirko Bortolotti (ITA)
#63 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO
Qualifying: P1 – Race: P3
At the start of the race over 55 minutes plus one lap, Mirko Bortolotti from pole position masterfully prevailed over his opposition. In the fiercely contested opening phase, he maintained the lead and continuously extended it as he drove in clean air. The performance pit stop on the tenth lap, which was all new for the crew, went smoothly so that the 32-year-old remained in the lead after his tyre change. On lap 18, however, a safety car phase deprived him of his hard-earned lead. At the restart, a problem occurred briefly, which relegated him back to fifth position. In the final phase of the race, however, he once again showed race-winning pace and secured third place with a last-minute move on the final lap.
Mirko Bortolotti: “It’s certainly mixed feelings for me after this race. We had everything under control for a long time and things went really well. Our strategy worked out and I made best use of the new set of tyres in the first stint to get an advantage. The pit stop was perfect, the whole team did a great job. Unfortunately, we lost the race at the restart when we suffered a brief lack of power. The problem was only for a short moment, but it had a big impact. We have to analyse what caused it. In the last laps I had good pace again and a cool fight with Maro. I really wanted to get the podium on the track. It’s a shame that we lost the win, but third place is still a good result for the season opener. On Sunday we have another chance and we want to make the most out of it.”
Rolf Ineichen (SUI)
#19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO
Qualifying: P25 – Race: DNF
For Rolf Ineichen, the DTM debut was an extremely instructive experience. The ADAC GT Masters-race winner familiarised himself with the challenges of qualifying on the 4.653-kilometre circuit in the morning. With an assessable one-second gap to Bortolotti’s pole time, he secured a grid spot on the 13th row for the first race. In the race, he gradually worked his way up the order in a long first stint. Until the pit stop on lap 16, the 43-year-old Swiss was in the top-15 range, but a problem forced him to end his race prematurely shortly afterwards.
Rolf Ineichen: “My first race day in the DTM was a mega feeling. Driving with two sets of tyres in qualifying is new to me and requires a completely different approach. It’s a lot of fun and the level here is extremely high. I got a good lap together in qualifying, but there are still little things here and there that I need to tweak. It means a lot of detail work for me, but I am confident that we will find more pace. The race was also a new experience. It was tough at the start. I sandwiched and the car was damaged. The first stint went encouragingly after that. I moved up into the midfield and had a clean pit stop, but unfortunately I had to retire shortly afterwards with a problem.”
Clemens Schmid (AUT)
#85 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO
Qualifying: P14 – Race: P21
A strong qualifying session did not provide Clemens Schmid with the reward he deserved on his first appearance in the DTM. In the chase for quick laptimes, the Austrian had placed third fastest Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO in the field and secured the seventh row of the grid as starting position for the race. The early stages of the heat proved to be extremely difficult for him. A technical issue at the start cost him many positions. A collision with another driver through no fault of his own threw him back to last position shortly afterwards. After an early tyre change, the 31-year-old underlined what would have been possible for him without the incidents. With a fastest lap that was only two and a half tenths slower than that of leader Mirko Bortolotti, he easily matched the pace of the top 10. At the finish, however, he was only able to crosse the line in 21st place due to the gap he had suffered at the beginning.
Clemens Schmid: “It was a pretty frustrating first race in the DTM for me. Things went well in qualifying and I was happy with the starting position for my debut. However, things immediately went wrong at the start, which caused me to fall far behind in the field. Shortly afterwards I was hit by another car and lost even more time. The pace was on a par with the top 10 when I was running in clean air, but unfortunately there was nothing more for me to gain after the problematic start phase. We can only put this Saturday behind us and look ahead. Tomorrow is a fresh start and we have every reason to be confident. The potential is there.”
Alessio Deledda (ITA)
#6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO
Qualifying: P29 – Race: P22
Former Formula 2 driver Alessio Deledda gained a lot of new knowledge on his first race day in the DTM. For the Italian, the season opener in Portugal was the first GT3 race of his young motorsport career. Consequently, a steep learning curve was necessary for him to hold his own in the top-class DTM field. In qualifying, he initially ended up in 29th position, with a noticeable gap. The race went according to plan and without incident, so that he was able to gather important impressions over the full distance. The 27-year-old eventually saw the chequered flag in 22nd place.
Alessio Deledda: “I learned a lot on my first day in the DTM. I had hoped for a bit more in qualifying, but everything is new for me and I have to work on myself in every session. The race was also an important assessment for me. I’m happy that everything went smoothly for me today, but of course there’s still room for improvement in terms of performance. We will study the data and the onboard footage in the evening to see what we can do better on Sunday. I will definitely push harder in qualifying, because there is still a lot of potential there.”
Gottfried Grasser, Team Principal of GRT: “We could have definitely done without the drama, but we are still mega satisfied with our DTM debut. We wouldn’t have dared to even dream of a pole position and a podium on our first weekend. After Mirko’s fantastic qualifying, things looked good for a long time in the race as well, but unfortunately a few small mistakes happened, which we will work on. We have to investigate the problems and find out the cause. We’ll put our heads together tonight to do better tomorrow. Overall, though, the positives outweigh the negatives today. The team did a fantastic job, we had good pit stops and great pace. We’ll be happy to continue like this.”
Source. GRT Grasser Racing/Photo. Gruppe C Photography